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Edinburg hoping northern section of planned Hidalgo County Loop goes near city-owned South Texas International Airport

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May (observed in 2008 on May 26). It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. Stories relating to Memorial Day are featured later in this posting, including President Bush’s proclamation and prayer for peace, and updates on a major reform to the G.I. Bill that has passed the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, featured second from left, brought key House legislators for a recent tour of the newly-opened Rapid Response Manufacturing Center at the University of Texas-Pan American. “It’s not every day that representatives from other regions of the state have the opportunity to see the burgeoning economic development of the Rio Grande Valley,” said Gonzáles. “The Rapid Response Manufacturing Center is a perfect example of how the Valley is continually striving to create and sustain jobs and opportunities for local residents.” Featured on the first row,, from left, are: Rep. Solomon Ortiz, Jr., D-Corpus Christi; Gonzáles; Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, Chair of the Select Committee on Higher and Public Education Finance; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Dr. Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College; and Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas, president of UTPA. See story later in this posting.

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A billboard off the U.S. Expressway 281 northbound frontage road near Canton Road heralds the planned construction of a 14-story, $150 million complex that will feature luxury condominiums, a hotel, restaurant, and other amenities known as the Sky View Las Palmas. Work is already underway at the site, which is located near the 1.2 million square-foot Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, where construction there also is moving forward. Sky View Las Palmas, which proposes to create about 200,00-square-feet of retail space, would be the latest major boost to construction activities in the city. It is tentatively scheduled to be built in four phases, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and be wrapped up in about two years.

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Robert Gandy, III, President/CEO of First National Bank, the largest privately held bank in Texas, will be the keynote speaker for the Wednesday, May 28 Leadership Edinburg Banquet at the Echo Hotel honoring the 19th graduating class. Tickets are available at $25 per person. Applications for Leadership Edinburg Class XX are currently available by contacting the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 383-4974. See story later in this posting.

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El Dorado Tejas Kooks of Houston, shown here last summer participating in the annual Texas Cook ‘Em in Edinburg, are expected to be among dozens of teams competing for awards and $15,000 in cash prizes again this July 4, when the major event gets underway again at Edinburg Municipal Park. A new category has been added to the competition – T-Bone Steak. The event is free and open to the public, but there will be a $5 parking fee per family. For more information on the cook-off, including how to enter a team, please log on to http://www.Edinburg.com. See story later in this posting. (More information on photojournalist Kirsten Luce, who took this shot, is available at http://www.KirstenLuce.com).

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Homer Gutiérrez, an engineer with J.E. Sáenz and Associates, points out one of the dozen high-resolution maps to Mayor Joe Ochoa, left, that were part of an open house held Wednesday, May 14, at Edinburg North High School, that depict a possible route for the planned $650 million Hidalgo County Loop that could wind up near the city-owned South Texas International Airport in Edinburg. Ochoa, former Mayor Richard Garcia, and Gerry Pate, the leader of Hidalgo County Road Builders, the private coalition developing the loop system, agree it will have a major economic impact on the three-time All-America City. Also featured in this shot is Robert Fina, also an engineer with J.E. Sáenz and Associates, which is one of numerous area firms which make up the Hidalgo County Road Builders. See story later in this posting.

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Garza reelected in match with Rodríguez, Espinoza survives challenge by Guerrero; $150 million school construction bond propositions widely approved

The first historical marker on The University of Texas-Pan American grounds was unveiled April 26 honoring Emilia Schunior Ramírez (1902 – 1960) a South Texas educator with deep roots in Edinburg. More than 40 community members, family and friends attended the celebration commemorating her life. The marker site was erected near Emilia Schunior Ramírez hall, located off of Sugar Road in Edinburg, which is named after Ramírez and once served as a women’s dormitory. Pictured at the unveiling of the Hidalgo County historical marker honoring Emilia Schunior Ramírez are her children, along with their families, who came to the event at the UTPA campus. “This is a joyous occasion for the University as we not only celebrate our first historical marker on campus, but also honor the extraordinary life of Emilia Schunior Ramírez, a world-class educator, who made an impact on many lives in South Texas,” UTPA President Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas said. Emilia’s eldest son, Alfonso Ramírez, who was Edinburg’s first Hispanic mayor in the 1950s said his mother was a learner and spent most of her time continuing her education, See story later in this posting.

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McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz, featured left, on April 30 welcomed Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland, at a major fundraiser in Pharr for the Hidalgo County Republican Party. Cortéz, who presented Craddick with a token of appreciation from McAllen for Craddick’s work on behalf of South Texas College, continues to build his relationships with the top legislative leadership in Austin, which will be considering the legislative priorities from the McAllen City Commission beginning in January 2009. One of those efforts may include a plan to bring a University of Texas-Pan American facility into McAllen. Cortéz hopes that his city, local legislators, and the UT System can work out a deal with the Texas Legislature to build a state-of-the-art planetarium, known as a digital dome theatre, in the City of Palms. The idea has been in the development stage for about a year, said Cortéz, who wants the UTPA high-technology component to be one of the focal points of an even more ambitious goal – the creation of a high-end retail, entertainment, and housing district – known as “Central Park” – to be built near La Plaza Mall. The value of such a facility would extend beyond tourism dollars, Cortéz contends – it would inspire thousands of Valley students to seek education and careers in science, engineering, and technology. See related story.

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President George W. Bush signs H.R. 5715 into law on Wednesday, May 7, 2008, during a ceremony in the Oval Office. The bill, “Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008,” is designed to provide continued availability of access to the Federal student loan program for students and families. Looking on are, from left: Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Congressman George Miller, D-San Francisco; Congressman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, California; Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming; Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson; Congressman Ric Keller, R-Orlando, Florida; and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. See story later in this posting.

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